My life changing diapers

iStock 000001673157XSmall1 My life changing diapersNow that I’m visibly pregnant, I get asked more and more often for a detailed plan of how many more children I’ll have and when I’ll be “done.” Much of the time, “Congratulations” is swiftly followed by one of the following questions:

  • “So, is this the last one?”
  • “How many more are you going to have?!”
  • “When are you going to be done?”

These are usually well-intended statements, expressed out of a concern for me. An old friend whose youngest just started kindergarten said to me the other day, “I don’t know how you hang on not knowing when you’ll be done with the baby phase. Aren’t you just dying for the days when you don’t have to deal with sippy cups and strollers and wiping noses?” She pointed out that it’s so much easier when all of your kids are old enough to do most things for themselves. “You don’t want to spend the rest of your life changing diapers, do you?” she wanted to know.

In terms of my bad character traits, my selfishness is surpassed only by my laziness. Also, though I love my babies and toddlers, I connect better with older kids. I’m not a “baby person” and always breathe a sigh of relief when each kid turns four. And I’ve been changing diapers every day for six years now — much of that time with three kids in diapers at once. So yeah. My gut reaction is that it sounds pretty nice not to have to deal with all the extra work that babies and toddlers require.

But to buy into that mentality, the idea that I would be happier and my life would be better if I could just do whatever I want all the time, would be to fall back into the spiritual morass I found myself in before my conversion to Christianity.

As I’ve said many times before, one of the most shocking truths I discovered when I converted to Christianity was that autonomy is not the path to happiness. The golden calf that I spent most of my life worshiping turned out to be a dead idol. I always thought that the secret to a fantastic life was to optimize on getting as much autonomy as possible so that I could do whatever pleased me, whenever I felt like doing it. Boy was I surprised when I found out that that kind of life left me amused but not deeply happy, and that the only source of real happiness — of joy — is God. And you only need to glance at a crucifix to be reminded that God is the God of self-sacrifice.

Through Christianity, I discovered the secret formula for that fantastic life I always wanted: be other-focused at the macro level, and self-focused at the micro level. Of course we each need to make regular time for rest and relaxation — and women especially need to be careful not to run themselves ragged by never taking time to recharge their own batteries. But the overall purpose of life is to serve. And the closer you get to God, the more he’s going to set you up with opportunities for some serious self-sacrificial service.

So that’s why, as lazy as I am, I kind of shrug when people ask if I’m anxious to be done changing diapers. With what I’ve seen of the Christian life so far, I presume that as soon as my last kid is out of diapers, God will simply send more opportunities for intimate, challenging service my way. Maybe one of our parents will become ill and need us to take care of them. Maybe a relative will need to move in with us. Maybe we’ll be called to take in foster children or volunteer with the homeless. Heck, given our current track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if our oldest children start having kids around the time our youngest is finally potty trained — and then a whole new cycle of diaper changing will begin again!

“Changing diapers” has become the ultimate symbol of the sort of intimate service that leads to a lack of autonomy — which is probably why our culture makes people feel so anxious to be done with it. It’s also why I’m ambivalent about it: it’s just another form of service, which is what the Christian life is all about. So maybe it won’t literally involve Huggies and baby wipes, but yeah, if I am to make the most of my time here on earth, I do assume that I’ll spend the rest of my life changing diapers.

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129 Responses to “My life changing diapers”
  1. Daniel Cox says:

    May the Lord fill your quiver with His blessings.

    As for me, the temptation to reply with a snarky remark is nearly impossible to overcome. I pray God’s continued grace and patience for you in light of these asinine and boorish questions.

  2. Jennifer, you are awesome & I love you. And, let me tell you, as someone who’s “done with diapers,” you long for it. I regret not having a larger family, even though I have grave reason to avoid getting pregnant. When my 12 year old asked me a question that came really close to “why can’t you have more babies?” tonight, I was near tears.

    What I wouldn’t give to change more diapers, even if it meant being dreadfully sick while pregnant. And I speak as a fellow “sloth is a favorite sin of mine” type.

    (You’re in my prayers, by the way.)
    Christine the Soccer Mom recently posted..Sanctification Through Simplicity

  3. Kristin says:

    Wow — given everything you do with blogging, talking, diapering, writing, diapering, schooling, diapering … “Lazy” is just hard to imagine. Though, I know exactly what you mean! Left to my own devices without an external focus, it’s all about me me me :-).

    I’ve been praying for you health (I was especially concerned for your plane trip for your speaking engagement). Haven’t heard about that in awhile. Is all well?

    • Wow — given everything you do with blogging, talking, diapering, writing, diapering, schooling, diapering … “Lazy” is just hard to imagine.

      Well, you should see what my house looks like right now. ;)

      Thank you so much for your prayers! Yes, things are better with my health. I haven’t had that vein pain in a while, which is a huge relief!

  4. Gina says:

    This was such an inspiring post. (Who knew diapers could be so incredibly inspiring?)

    And looking at it from another angle — the angle of someone who wants marriage and children very badly — this helps me to remind myself that God wants me serving where I am now. But I do so hope He calls me to diaper-changing one day. . . ..

  5. Kathleen says:

    Thank you so much, Jen, for this post! Now that I have two children (both in diapers) – a boy and a girl – I can’t tell you how often strangers stop to tell me how lucky I am that I have one of each and can now stop having kids. What?? When I reply that I actually would love to have a big family, people literally drop their jaws in shock and awe. It drives me crazy that society tells you how many children you should have, and even more-so that one day, we may even be able to choose certain desirable features we want for our children (I want a tall, thin boy with blue eyes, brown hair and dimples please!) The fact that I am so blessed to HAVE diapers to change at all is enough to leave me saying prayers of thanksgiving each and every day.

    • Corrie says:

      I love your last statement, “The fact that I am so blessed to HAVE diapers to change at all is enough to leave me saying prayers of thanksgiving each and every day.” As a woman who has struggled with infertility (now have 2 young children)…this is so true!!!

  6. Nadja says:

    Children are a cross–in a most embraceable form. If not for my kids, I would have continued to be the self-absorbed individual I was before them. I know whereof I speak, as I was 35 and married 12 years before we had our first baby. Now I am 47, my youngest (number 6) will be two this summer, I look forward to the daunting prospect of home schooling until I am 64. There is no room for selfishness there. Thanks be to God.

    Bless you and your growing family, Jennifer.

  7. Meredith says:

    What a great closing sentence!

    Knee-deep in dirty diapers myself, this post meant a lot to me.

  8. Abigail says:

    These sorts of posts always hit me hard, as I get the opposite kind of “other people stick their noses in your family size business” comments, namely:

    1) So you had two and you’re done! WTG!

    2) When are you going to have another?

    3) Don’t you want to have a girl?

    All of which constitute crosses, because I am, due to physical/surgical issues, very unlikely to ever conceive again; and if I do, it is likely to cause massive physical pain (confirmed, the one time I did conceive) and/or miscarriage (confirmed, by my loss of Baby Gianna at around 12 weeks), and/or inability to carry to full term (never confirmed, but it is likely that if Gianna had survived to viability, she would have been born very early and needed months of NICU care). Nevertheless, my husband and I are open to life in every sense of the word. We actively try to conceive at my fertile times, knowing the odds of suffering are greater than the odds of producing a perfect bouncing baby for strangers to smile at and say: “Well, you’re definitely done NOW – right???”
    Abigail recently posted..Miscarriage And Other Natural Disasters response to Bryan Kemper

    • Kara says:

      I’m so sorry Abigail. I think that any comments which are directed at your personal family life are uncalled for and none of their business. Either way, it hurts. I get the same comments as Jen and it’s so frustrating. I can definitely see how the other way around would be hurtful as well. Even well meaning comments have negative connotations.
      Kara recently posted..Fish Fry!

    • Gina says:

      It seems to me the real problem is people who can’t quit sticking their nose into other people’s business. Which is a fascinating trend, given the hyper-political-correctness of our society.

  9. Kara says:

    Thank you for this post. I love it and it’s exactly how I feel. But I need to remind myself of this often. I need to stop thinking “when this happens, I will be happy”. When the truth is that I would have a joyful life if I just left it completely to God.

    I always, always get the same comments from people too. Plus much more negative ones. I can’t believe society as a whole thinks it’s ok to stick their nose in other ppl’s family life and marriages. We have gotten the “When are you getting a vasectomy?” question so many times we’re losing patience. My kids are happy, why is it any of their business? Thankfully most people are well-meaning, but it’s still obnoxious.

  10. Martina says:

    I love it when people ask me if we’re done. The knee jerk reaction I give them is ‘we’re waiting until we get an ugly one.’ Man oh man, I’ve got all kinds of wonderful comments on what to say but, I agree with you, it’s usually well-intended comments that I can’t give snark back to.

    I just smile and hope the Holy Spirit is shining brighter than I am. :)

  11. Christine says:

    Being 52 I’m past the child bearing years. Although a month ago I inquired to have my tubal ligation reversed. Not that I necessarily wanted to get pregnant but I just wanted follow God’s plan for me.

    I only had one child, she’s 32 now & pregnant with her first (via IVF). When I had her, being pregnant with a present but absent husband, I decided I would not go through this again by myself. I had my tubes tied at 21 years old. Obviously I wasn’t Catholic at that time. And have been twice divorced since.

    Although I’m a very happy & content person, I feel very sad for my daughter who doesn’t have any siblings. Eventually she will have no one but her husband and child/children. I myself only have one sister & one nephew. My sister felt the same way… her son is 21 & he aspires to be a bachelor all of his life!

    I wish I had been smarter/wiser or less selfish back then – my daughter would have had siblings, nieces, nephews & maybe I would have had several grand children! At this moment my greatest anticipation is this little baby that is due in April! My first “blood” grand child.

    My hope is that young married women have the desire to raise children while they are young and able. If you wait until you can afford kids, you’ll never have them. Please, make the sacrifices today – tomorrow you’ll be so happy you made them!

    Jennifer & all of you young women with several children – when you come to moments when you wonder “Why?” just think of your future & all the beautiful moments to come… holidays, special occasions, family get togethers…

    I wish someone had knocked some sense into me 30 years ago.
    Christine recently posted..Moving on…

  12. D says:

    I believe that family life, in all aspects, is something to be carefully discerned for each individual family in its own uniqueness.

    While I understand the heart of this post and respect it totally, I also get a little annoyed when people think that children, and having lots of them, is the only way to sanctity in family life. I have also witnessed many large families use this notion as a status symbol, a pity party, or a path to self-righteousness, especially in many Catholic circles. It’s not an automatic, nor is it the only way.

    Knowing that my husband and I will not have a large family, we have been called to holiness through other ways. Do I wish this was different for us? Not really. The number of children I have/will have only scratches the surface for how blessed I am/will be. My husband and I have been called to different ways of ministering; not just in our own home. We have been blessed to mentor children, care for my disabled mother, and serve those most in need. This is our family, but I realize it won’t be everyone’s experience. But, I can’t tell you how many snarky comments I have heard about my small family size, as well. Respect is needed all around if we really believe that God’s plan is different from one person and family to the next.

    • Jan says:

      You are quite right, D. Everyone’s choices about family size are personal, as are their choices in faith. We SHOULD all respect each other, and never judge any family by its size. Besides, you never know if someone would love to have more and simply can’t. It’s none of anyone’s business but theirs.

      I am expecting #13, and I’ve been plenty guilty of taking too much pride in the number of times I’ve given birth, or feeling sorry for myself, or thinking I’m a better Catholic/Christian than other women. I hope God and others will bear with me with patience and have mercy on my soul. I also pray for understanding and humility. I can never know what crosses all those other moms are bearing.

      Who am I to judge?

      • Aaron says:

        Jan, while you are right that many want children but can’t have them, you first indicate that family size is a matter of personal choice. I would disagree. It is a matter of faith and trust in Almighty God and discerning His plan for us. The only CHOICE is whether or not to follow His “good, pleasing, and PERFECT will”.

        D:
        not to nit pick, but only ordained clergy minister. Everyone else engages in apostolates. It may not seem like much of a difference, but ordination into the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopacy is a HUGE calling. When we muddle the words/roles, we demean the vocation to ordination.

        • D says:

          I am actually a Lay Ecclesial Minister, so I would call what I do ministry. I would recommend reading “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord”, a document put out by the USCCB for further clarification and explanation. Take up any wording issues with the bishops.

          “…laity serve in various “ministries, offices and roles” that do not require sacramental ordination but rather “find their foundation in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, indeed, for a good many of them, in the Sacrament of Matrimony.”
          – Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

  13. Laura says:

    I have to say that I had children in diapers every day for 16 years…not one day off of diapers in that entire time…and you’re right, once they are out, there is another form of service that God has waiting for you to perform. I don’t mean that in a negative way, either! That is what our life is all about; that is our path to holiness. Praise God in all things and never wish for a change in circumstances because the new circumstances you get might be much harder than the ones you had :) God Bless.
    Laura recently posted..A Meditation

  14. Karen says:

    ****I don’t know how you hang on not knowing when you’ll be done with the baby phase.****

    I don’t know what I’ll do when it is over. I have 9 children. My oldest is about to graduate from high school (home school) and go off to college. My youngest is 9 months. I am approaching 40. I may have another baby or two left or Max may be my caboose. It makes me sad and a bit lost to think about being done with childbearing. Being pregnant and nursing and having babies is what I’ve been doing for almost 20 years. I *am* a baby person. I tell myself that without the complicated pregnancies and nursing and baby care I will be able to focus on my older kids, that I will get a full nights sleep, that I will be able to be more spontaneous etc….these things are all true but they don’t mitigate the sadness I feel at the thought of never feeling a life inside me again.

    I’m asked all.the.time if I’m done, if I’m having more, are you trying to get a TV show, am I going to get fixed (why should I fix something that obviously isn’t broken?) etc… it is what it is. I just try and smile and be charitable. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

  15. Carla says:

    We will be sharing our plans to adopt a disabled child this weekend with our extended family and I expect similar reactions…

    “you already have 6!”
    “why do you want to make your life so hard?”

    There is only one answer…

    Love.

    Love bears all things, changes diapers daily, makes the sacrifices of NFP if it is not possible to have more children now (or ever)….

    Love begs to be shared despite the cost (or the smelliness)!

    Hi jen! So enjoyed meeting and talking with you at Behold!

  16. Marie says:

    I’ve been changing diapers for 12.5 years now and you know, it’s just not that bad anymore. It’s like loading the dishwasher, only faster; just one of those things I do at odd times throughout the day. Of all the reasons to have or not have more, diapers is a nonissue for us.

    I look at my parents and all the time they have to volunteer and say “One day”. But not this decade.

  17. Kate says:

    GREAT post! I’m so glad I checked your blog today!!!

    Any chance you can touch more on the self-sacrificial point you made, that our overall purpose in this life is to serve?

    I’m currenty in the thick of chaos with 3 young ones (2 are in diapers; the oldest, 3 yrs old, just potty trained himself, though cleaning up accidents & the consequential extra laundry it adds that I don’t have time or energy for is currently far more work than changing a few more diapers each day). For the past couple years I’m really struck by & wondering how it is in giving that we receive, that it is in dying to ourselves we find life, etc. (sorry I don’t even remember where these things come from or how exactly they go anymore, I haven’t used the part of my brain that used to know things like that, write papers on such topics, for so long it seems).

    My husband, thanks be to God, is amazing & so helpful. I usually get to be “relieved from duty” when he gets home from work so that I have time to myself, and so I do feel I’m doing what I can to take care of myself so as not to completely lose my mind, but I’m still not getting much sleep at night with my nursing baby & come breakfast the next day I’m already watching the clock.

    I do believe in my heart of hearts that it is true that we are to give, to serve, to die to ourselves. Amidst the stress & strain of raising young children, the true joy is absolutely immeasurable for sure and the worth of such work I know is measured in eternal terms. But when I think of it, when I look in the mirror at the end of the day & see someone who looks frighteningly a lot like my but 50 lbs heavier & yikes just not so well groomed to say it nicely, I wonder how is this good for me? What is becoming of me? Besides appearance, there’s the health issue: there’s no time for myself to do much but run to the bathroom a couple times/day, sneak in a bite of snacky food here & there or eat some mac & cheese for lunch that I made for the kids. As hard as I try to fit some exercise in, at the end of the day I usually prefer to rest or run a bunch of errands solo rather than drag along all the kids who pull things of shelves, make messes, throw crying fits, fall asleep in the car & so wake up super crabby, etc. Then also spiritually, prayer life is um not much more than pleas for grace, wisdom, & much patience throughout the day. All the great Catholic books for moms on finding balance, etc. are a joke to me when all I can do is try to survive. Does that ring a bell with anyone else or am I missing something or doing something terribly wrong?

    It just seems so unhealthy to live like this: meeting everyone else’s needs all day & night. Just trying to survive while striving to make the kids healthy & happy & holy!

    Thanks. God bless you!

    • Tami says:

      (((hugs)))! I remember those days of having three kids, three and younger! Mine were 3, 1 and newborn (and my three-year-old was not potty trained!). It was a rough year, but I’m writing to remind you that they are not that little or that needy forever. We now have five children ages 7, 5, 4, 2 and newborn, and honestly, it’s still hard in its own way, but so much easier than the three three and under stage. It’s amazing what a difference a few years can make. Hang in there. :)

    • MelanieB says:

      Kate,

      I’ve had so many moms tell me that three kids is the hardest, especially three kids three and under. And I’ve been told by so many of them that does get easier, even with more kids. Having just had baby number four, which puts me at four under five, I can definitely see how that’s the case. When your oldest starts to be more capable of helping out and the middle ones become more self-sufficient.

      When we were newly married and didn’t have kids yet my husband and I babysat for his brother who has six kids. We hardly had to do anything because the two oldest (both boys) put their younger siblings into their pajamas, brushed their teeth, said their prayers with them, and put them to bed. The older kids do much of the housekeeping and food preparation and so much of that burden is easier.

      I’m not there yet; but I know that if I put in the work now to teach my little ones how to help out around the house, things will start to get easier even if we keep having little ones in diapers.
      MelanieB recently posted..7 Fast Takes

    • Brianna says:

      Oh Kate I SO know what you mean. When we had three children ages two and under (eek!), it was simply survival mode much of the time. All three were in diapers, my husband commuted over an hour each way to work, and it was pretty insane.

      We now have five children and our oldest is 7, the youngest being 17 mos. SO MUCH EASIER now than when we had only three, but the oldest was only two. I look back on those days with three small children and just have to shake my head and wonder how we survived. :) So often it felt so hard to just catch my breath, but I have some fond memories too of those early days as a family.

      I love the quote I read that was originally said by a saint: “Truths come with graces attached.” I know I experienced those graces, even though it didn’t always feel like it in the midst of it all. Sending hugs and prayers your way!
      Brianna recently posted..Mom fail

      • Lauren says:

        Kate,
        I feel like I am just now getting over that hump. Our 3 kids are 5, 4, and 17 months. When the oldest ones were younger, I also did some childcare, so at times I had 4-5 children all under 3 in my home. There were days (months? years?) that were a little sketchy. But things have been a lot better lately. And I don’t know if this is coincidental or not, but I have been determined to get a better prayer life going and it has done wonders for me. The morning hours are too precious for me to give up sleep in order to pray, so I make sure I have some dedicated prayer time during naptime. My oldest is 5, but I still enforce “quiet time” at the same time that the others are napping. I think it is crucial to my health and stability that I get at least an hour of alone time in the middle of the day. Sometimes I just sit in silence for 10 minutes and talk to God. And try to listen. And plead for patience, energy, and a loving/giving heart. Other times I read the daily readings and meditate on them. Then I put in an exercise DVD and I exercise for half an hour. This has also done wonders for my energy level and mood. Even better than a cup of coffee! Sometimes the kids wake up when I’m still exercising and they try to do it with me. :) Lastly, you’re so right that we snack on whatever our kids are eating, so I’ve tried to make what I serve them healthy, so the temptation to eat “junk food” isn’t really ever there. Anyway…others have passed on some great thoughts about this being a passing phase (it is!), but I thought I would share some things that have helped me, practically speaking. God bless you!

  18. Manda says:

    I get these comments too, and I only have 2 boys! I usually reply with a “Oh, we’re definitely having more!” and get the she’s-clearly-off-her-rocker look, lol! Though to be fair we aren’t “planning” on any more bio kids, we’ve got our hearts set on foster-to-adopt to grow our family, but there’s always a chance we’ll have another surprise baby and that’d be good too.

    Oh, and the diapering stage is much more fun when it’s cloth ;) I might have to have more babies just to have those cute cloth booties crawling around my living room.
    Manda recently posted..How to Make a Picture Schedule

    • Jaimie says:

      God bless you for considering adoption. God has already given the world enough babies that need a home without us making more. THIS is stewardship. This is godliness. This is selflessness. This is love.

      • Jenny says:

        So Christian mothers need to stop manufacturing babies so they can help the ones that God created?

        I agree that adoption is all the things you say it is.

      • Manda says:

        Oh dear, I in no way meant to say others should have fewer children in order to adopt. Adoption is a wonderful blessing, but I don’t think the need for adoption in the world displaces the need for new life. Just as having children does not diminish marital love but multiply it, having biological children does not diminish our ability to care for those children already here who have been left without fit parents. I hope to be a better adoptive parent because I have biological children I’ve parented since birth, not in spite of it.

        God is the originator of the adoptive spirit, He adopted us as His children after all, and yet he still had a divine son as well. He created us with a beautiful ability to create new life ourselves, and I think it would be false of us to abandon that gift entirely.

        As for adoption being stewardship, godliness, or selflessness more so than giving birth, I can assure you my desire to adopt comes from the same place in my heart that led me to welcome my two sons through birth. It is a natural creative desire (whether physical new life or new life in the sense of a new start) and love for my husband that makes me want to grow our family. Talking with other adoptive families has shown a similar attitude. Even nuns take on a mothering role, and priests take on the name of Father, because we are all called to nurture one another as our heavenly Father does. If we have no model of what a godly natural family looks like, these other, similar constructs might lose their focus and definition.

    • Tami says:

      I feel the same way about cloth diapering! When I finally switched to cloth it was like all the angst was taken out of diaper changes.

    • Kathleen says:

      Yes! We started cloth when I found out I was pregnant with #2 and #1 was only 10 months old. It’s taken a lot of convincing to get extended family members on board, but I was pinning a prefold on my daughter yesterday and the thought occurred to me “I actually enjoy changing diapers now!” :)

  19. MIchelle says:

    I have been changing diapers for 18 years now. I will be incredibly sad when I am not anymore although I’m sure that my children will start having babies when I am finishing up! I hope so anyway! I look at my job as a mother to my 9 children (and hopefully more in the future!) as my greatest accomplishment and greatest gift that God has given me and that I can give back to Him.

    It is a sacrifice to be open to life but it’s one I gladly make for the wonderful gifts that God has given me, both the gift of everlasting life because of His sacrifice on the cross and the gift of each of my children, both those I hold in my arms here and those that Mary holds for me in heaven.

    • Nina says:

      So beautiful.

      I agree. Been pregnant or nursing or changing diapers for 23 plus years. It has all been the most important time I could ever spend doing ANYTHING. What else is the point? The least among you is the greatest.

      Love to all of you changing diapers: of the young, of the old, and metaphorically. This is a valley of tears, and of diaper-changing. And it keeps us humble and remembering who we are—-! A good post for Lent, Jen.

  20. Rosemary says:

    As my very wise father (who came froma family of ten) once told me, “When you have lots of kids, the older ones learn to take care of the younger ones.” We taught our oldest to change diapers, and he passed the knowledge down to his younger brother. Our youngest was the only one who never shared that chore, and had to learn it when HE brcame a Dad. There will be some respite for you if you share the responsibilities — and the joy. Glad you’re feeling better! Rosemary

  21. Charlene says:

    Hi Jen – your post reinforces everything that I have been thinking about over this lenten season. The priest’s sermon the other day reminded us that Lent was a time not to give up the bad things but to give up something good… something that we could enjoy outside of lenten season (e.g. it is not ever ok to cuss and swear but boy am I with you on that as far as reforming bad habits!)

    What the priest said was that we have to learn to say no to ourselves.

    We take the time at lent to give up something that is ordinarily permissibly and good for us, something that benefits us and that we enjoy. By saying no to this something good, we are building the strength to deprive ourselves, making us better able to resist sin and temptation.

    I really respect your commitment and obedience to Catholic teaching! It is so much harder than it sounds, so counter-culture! I know because I try and frequently fail. God bless you.

  22. What a beautiful post! I’m only pregnant with our fourth, and am already frustrated by the comments I often get. The most common one is “Oh, you have your hands full” or “Aren’t you guys done now?”
    I try to respond charitably, that I’d rather have my hands full than empty, or that we are open to as many blessings as God sends us, but sometimes it is tough!
    I love your perspective on this, and like other commenters have mentioned, as much as I dislike changing diapers, I will miss it when I don’t have to change them anymore, though God-willing that won’t be for many years!
    Thanks for a great reflection!My youngest just woke up, so time for a diaper change… :-)
    Katie @ Wellness Mama recently posted..Irish Bangers and Mash

  23. Colleen says:

    This is an absolutely brilliant post. Brilliant! Thanks for the reminder.
    Colleen recently posted..Living Up to Your Name

  24. M. l'abbe' Rafael . says:

    You are actually one of my best resources for spiritual conferences and spiritual exercises. Please keep writing.

  25. Great Post & blog..I will link to you..
    Jackie Parkes recently posted..Newman Chaplets

  26. There are two parts to your post today, Jennifer.

    Accepting children *is* a service to God. Being a service to someone, anyone has the parts we like doing (in the case of parenting it would be the hugs, kisses and “I love you’s”) and the parts we aren’t so keen on (like the nappies, sorry, diapers!). But we’re doing what we’re called to do. We don’t have to like it all, we just have to do it all.

    The second part is the questions in general. I posted about how we with larger families react to this on my blog yesterday and the bottom line is that no matter how many times we hear a question or how it comes across, let’s try to be gracious in answering and be a light for large families and those who welcome children.

  27. Tina says:

    I just love this entry. People are so quick to look at the “gaggle” of kids that one might have (more common with Catholic families) and size up the situation deeming it as insanity for wanting more than a handful of kids.
    It’s good to be reminded to keep ones mouth shut and not pass judgment on another for having kids…or not having kids…whatever the case may be.
    Tina recently posted..So I visited some Sisters… Catholic

  28. Sarah in MI says:

    Thank you. My husband and I have been getting the “are you done” so much since we just had our 5th, and this post is so uplifting.

  29. Janet says:

    Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for this post. I don’t have any children and at 58, I’m pretty sure there are none on the horizon! But I needed to hear this message this morning. It made me realize just how jealously I have been guarding my time.

    I have not worked outside the home for the past 15 years and now I need to find a job. I have an offer from a Catholic organization near my home and it would be an ideal fit. But what was my first thought? “How can I find time for myself when I have to work?”

    Thank you for pointing out what my first priority should be – How does God want to use me right now?

  30. Karen says:

    Thank you for this post. My mother was depressed when i told her i was pregnant four months after our honeymoon. She had wanted me to have a career, and didn’t see raising kids as a career, I suppose. Even now, though she doesn’t speak to me, I know she is horrified at my life of stay at home motherdom and homeschooling. God’s will has never entered into the equation for her.

    As for being done…I’m expecting my fourth, and that’s the number of kids, I think, that in most people’s minds slots you into the slightly insane category. I have three boys, and I can tell when people ask “do you know what you’re having?” that if I were to answer, “A girl,” they are waiting to say, “So you’re all done, you got your girl!”

    Unfortunately for THEM, we having another boy, which I think is delightful and exactly right. But they can’t pull out the “all done” question, because in our society I suppose you’re supposed to want a girl if you have boys, or a boy if you have all girls. So they can’t assume I’m done, ha ha on them!

    When my first was born, I decided to see changing diapers as the same as giving alms. I am doing something completely neccessary for somebody so helpless they can’t do it themselves. I suppose you could say the same thing about feeding a baby, but every guest clamors to feed the baby. That’s the FUN job. Nobody (except perhaps my mother in law, who has a slight martyr complex, if you ask me) begs to change diapers. It’s a thankless job in most people’s minds. But it is most neccessary and even when the baby is old enough to shove food in his mouth, he can’t change his own diaper. So I decided to offer it up and I’ve never minded changing diapers (much) since then.

    • Kara says:

      LOL! I’m in the same situation, only opposite. I’m pregnant with my 4th girl, due in June, and people ask me, “So now do you have to keep trying for a boy?” I tell them we aren’t trying to begin with, but if we are blessed with a boy someday, that would be great and that I am happy with my girls, that it’s easier this way and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
      Kara recently posted..Fish Fry!

      • the Mom says:

        We always tell people that we’ll keep having them until we get an ugly one, and then we’ll probably have one more to show us that we really have run out of cute and it’s not just a fluke. They always laugh and they always get the point.

        My husband says quite simply that we’ll have them until we’re done.
        the Mom recently posted..Somebody

    • Theresa in Alberta says:

      I didnot have any more children also because of pressure from my mother not to (long story) This was pre conversion….I wish I could go back in time and tell her to MYOB and have several more!!!!!!

      • Karen says:

        It sounds sad, but I knew I’d made the right decision to break ties with my mother when I heard, through my grandmother, my mom’s reaction on being asked if she’d heard about our second child being born:

        “OH! I don’t even want to TALK about it…and I’m sure there’ll be ANOTHER ONE before long.”

        I can’t imagine having a person like that around my kids. Yikes. I’m sorry your mother pressured you like that. My kids can either have no kids, or lots of kids, it won’t be any of my business!

  31. Jaimie says:

    You’re like that person who creates problems then says you’re being helpful by fixing them.

    (That’s just a metaphor. Don’t take it as a statement on human worth. Do take it as a statement on family size, I guess.)
    Jaimie recently posted..Angry face

  32. Jaimie says:

    Many of these comments make me sad. When there actually are kids out there that need love, need a home, here are these Christians gleefully creating things to keep them too busy to help others in the name of “being selfless.”
    Jaimie recently posted..Angry face

    • Gina says:

      Jaimie, they’re not mutually exclusive. The act of bringing new life into the world is an act of love, as nearly every parent on the planet would say. The act of bringing another life into one’s family is an act of love. (For the record, my parents did both: I’m their biological child, and I have an adopted sister.) Why pick and choose and try to decide which act of love is more loving? They both involve love and that’s a good thing.

      • Kara says:

        I agree with Gina.

        Furthermore, we are not “gleefully creating things”, we are open to God’s plan for us. My husband and I don’t try to conceive. We happen to try to avoid pregnancy, just with natural methods. We also happen to be very fertile and get pregnant easily. I refuse to pump my body full of poisons (contraceptives), or use other unnatural means to take God out of my marriage.

  33. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this. I was lying awake last night mourning the fact that I was not able to have kids in my 20’s so this means my 30’s would be the decade for changing diapers while my peers moved past that stage. I was sad I couldn’t join my siblings in enjoying an older family at this point. Deep down, I realize that’s not the point. Being “ahead” or “on time” or “at a certain stage” really doesn’t matter because our life purpose and commitment to service and God are what matters. And reading this confirmed that even if I spend the rest of my life changing diapers, that would be okay!
    Sarah recently posted..Abstinence Is In

    • My husband and I are in our thirties changing diapers and we love it. It took us 9 years before God blessed us with a child. Yes we may go to bed shortly after our daughter does, but we still enjoy every minute of it. I think that there are just as many thirty somethings out there changing diapers as there are twenty somethings. We like to think that we are just a little bit wiser now than we were in our twenties. God’s plan is the best plan.
      Teresa Ellifritt recently posted..Friends!

  34. What a beautiful reflection!! Thank you!
    Kaitlin @ More Like Mary recently posted..My View

  35. Michelle says:

    What a great post! I’m kind of in a similar situation as my 5th is due in July, too. Mine are a little more spread out than yours, I think, (my oldest turns 10 in July). And my husband and I are a little bit older and may have cause to avoid “for the duration” due to age/finances/ability to care for/etc. But I still wonder what life might be like when my youngest is 5. And I try not to necessarily “look forward” to that day as I really try to live in the moment and appreciate my children for who they are right now. But I do wonder. And I find that I am called to serve in so many different ways even now than I did when I just had my oldest two in diapers. God – as the God of Self Sacrifice – will find a way to bring you to Him if you allow it…at least that has been my experience.
    Michelle recently posted..Humility- Revisited

  36. Alisha says:

    Everything you said about autonomy and optimal happiness really struck a chord with me. Thanks for the encouragement!
    Alisha recently posted..How will it sell

  37. Mary says:

    Hi Jen,

    Interesting points here. I really relate to Sarah, not so much in that I couldn’t have kids in my twenties, but that I did not, and now I am really plagued with sadness and regret that I will not know my children for a long time, and that I will probably not become a grandmother until I am ancient, given the way things are going with successive generations postponing childbirth later and later. It is truly the greatest regret of my life. I hope to set up a blog and talk about this someday, as I really think it is a growing, and tragic issue. It is connected to so many other issues related to sexuality, so I am trying to sort some of those out it my head as I am on my own journey.

    However, I also waited (partially), because I have concerns for the environment. And, although I know many will become tired of hearing this, it is not true that there are no environmental consequences for women having large families. Diapers are a prime example. They do not decompose and are very bulky. I used cloth and air-dried them for most of my first two children (a monumental undertaking), but then became overwhelmed with the third, even though he is the one I had the most “environmental guilt” about. (I run in circles where people are ABSOLUTELY convinced that having large families is truly egotistical and selfish. The ask the question, “Why not have two or three and then adopt?”, and I have no good answer at all.

    I know that the service aspect of parenting can be such a growth experience, but I also know that many people do service in other ways that they could not do if they had large families, so they have chosen to limit the size, for what many would not consider “grave” reasons.

    If you cannot tell, I struggle with this issue a lot, both in conversations with friends and family, but also within my own “Biologist’s Mind.”

    It is not true that all or even most people I know who think it is prudent to limit family size to somewhere under three (as a total fertility rate for a society, not meaning that everyone is limited to two or less) are pro “culture of death”. Many of them are gentle, thinking and feeling souls who see it as a way of carrying out God’s concept of stewardship for our world. My own take right now leans towards the idea that some women really do want large families in a desperate way, and they should have them, but many others should limit their size (through non-abortive technologies) and fulfill their calling to serve in other ways in addition to motherhood.

    I would be interested to hear how many of you are balancing a large family (over three children) and a job that requires that you be out of the house during the work week. Jobs like, teaching, medicine, accounting, running a business not from home, publishing, running a restaurant, etc. I am not trying to be snarky or imply that writing is not a real job, but I do think that it is important to understand that it is so admirable for people to serve in other ways than motherhood, but also have the experience of motherhood, and love their children.

    I mean all of this in a loving, respectful way, as I do not think I know all the answers, but I do think I have a responsibility to pray, think and meditate about these things in a serious way and not just accept the teaching of the Church.

    • Karen says:

      There is a season for everything. For many of the commenters here, that season is being a stay-at-home mother right now. Why does it matter if they work outside home, how is teaching other people’s children more honorable than teaching one’s own?
      I am constantly ‘in service’ to others, in and outside my family. I take care of my own children and home, provide support to my mother fighting stage IV breast cancer, make meals to take to friends and even people I barely know who have just had babies or surgery…or even just a bad day. I make quilts to give away,to comfort the uncomforted. In the past I was a doula who rarely charged for her services. I have spent up to 92 hours attending a woman while she birthed her baby and driven hundreds of miles to attend a person I met on the internet. I taught parenting and childbirth ed classes and made myself more accessible to my students than I was required too.
      I am not trying to toot my own horn. I do/have done little compared to a lot of Catholic women out there. Actually, I feel like I do the bare minimum. I’m just trying to demonstrate that stay-at-home mothers contribute positively to their families AND their communities without a paycheck.

      • Mary says:

        Dear Karen,

        I think the kind of service you do is important, and now that I am staying home for these years I try to do what you are doing too. I do think society loses something when nobody is home to do these things, but I also think much is gained when people work outside the home too.

        I never said it was more honorable to teach other children than to teach your own, (I reread the post and did not find where I said this, but please point it out if I did as I did not mean to.) but the fact is that different people have different gifts. This is a fact. We need and have schools, so some people need to do this and do it well. Also, some folks are VERY good at teaching certain ages. I taught biology at a high level to students in a high school that routinely produces incredible scientists, doctors etc. I felt that I was really using my gifts to educate these young people in a really important way. We had a physics guy who was teaching geniuses. Not everyone can do that well.

        In fact, I would venture to point out that probably more people are suited to raising young children well than are suited to teaching AP physics to genius kids. It is just a supply and demand thing. So, I would say that this man was fulfilling his calling to be a steward by pouring his heart and soul into what he did while placing his children in a loving daycare while he worked.

        I am very sorry for your mother and glad you are there for her. My own mother has battled cancer several times, and we are hoping it never comes back. I was glad to be there for her, but I found it very hard…to remain positive and calm. Peace.

        • Karen says:

          It’s late and I have had a long day so pardon me if I ramble a bit.

          Your original comment, especially the last paragraph, says to me that a woman should have a career outside the home and that said career trumps having more children. That the ‘better’ choice is to limit your family size, hire day care and go to work and that being a teacher, doctor, lawyer, business owner is more serving the community than staying home and raising children. Maybe this wasn’t the tone you were shooting for but it was how I interpreted it. If I was in error, I apologize.

          Obviously, *somebody* needs to work outside the home but I don’t believe *everybody* needs to work outside the home. So much of what we pay people to do now, from babysitting to housekeeping to taking care of the elderly was done by the women that stayed home instead of hitting the workforce.

          I won’t even touch on how difficult it is to ‘have it all’. Work fulltime, parent, take kids to activities, take care of a home/yard/car, serve the Church, take care of older family members etc…

          I am not saying every woman should have a dozen kids, stay at home and home school. We live in a society that just doesn’t make that possible or even desireable in many family situations.

          Raising children, whether it is 1 or 2 or 7 or 9, to grow up and to know, love and serve God and to love their neighbor as thyself is the penultimate contribution to the community. Anything else you do, inside or outside of the home, is icing on the cake.
          Karen recently posted..16 Texans

    • Martina says:

      I am with Karen on this. Why does motherhood come with the stereotype that you are not serving others outside of the home?

      I have five children, am only marginally older than Jen ::evil grin:: and I am very involved in a lot of volunteer positions. And I’m not talking fluff volunteer. I am involved in our Adult Faith Formation program at our parish {including being part of the steering committee that created the program prior to its inception}. I firmly believe that in order to teach our children, our adults first need to be properly catechized.

      I am also part of the {for lack of a better word} “board” for our church MOMs group – as in, think tank. Creating ideas and following through on how to not just be the best moms that we can be, as our vocation calls us to, but how can we positively influence the rest of our parish in the process.

      I run and moderate an online group of Catholic women and have been part of online forums for many years. As a result, I have many women who come to me with questions about the Faith or simply need an ear. I consider that to be a worthwhile cause as St. Paul says we should *always* be building up the Church.

      And lastly I am on our parish pastoral council. When you consider that our parish is the size of a small city {22-25K registered parishioners}, you can see that this is not a job I take lightly. I am working fiercely to implement programs and other things to help boost volunteerism at the request of our priests.

      Being at home doesn’t mean you aren’t contributing to the outside world. It just means you are being creative with the time you have. And quite honestly, since we also homeschool**, it just means that my time that I give to the parish is even more meaningful to me because it takes a lot to juggle that schedule out.

      **We just decided to homeschool this past year after giving 13+ academic years to public school.
      Martina recently posted..Nine years later and I still wow myself!

      • Mary says:

        Again, someone thought that I implied that motherhood meant you are not serving outside the home? I am sorry, really– I do not mean to imply this at all! Apologies!

        But… my question remains: How many of you are in, or know someone in, jobs like medicine or teaching high school etc? Because, as I see it in my environment, very very very few women hold these jobs and have large families. From what I can tell, there is a reason for this. It is tremendously difficult…especially here in the Northeast (where daycare costs are more expensive than anyplace else in the nation). Let’s say you are very bright with science in high school, then go on to Harvard University and enter medical school at 26 after working to pay some debt and figure out if you can take on medical school (and successfully get in!). Then you study and work for four plus years to become a doctor. Now you are about 31. Let’s say you marry and practice NFP, and work to try and pay of some of your enormous debt. You have some trouble getting pregnant, but then conceive around 35. You try to space your children to be manageable. You really want to become a cardiologist but you also want to balance family and work and find a somewhat part-time position, it is very hard or impossible to find near to where you live. You are really buckling under the pressure. You talk to advisers to find out if you can take time off and then go back. They all think it is career suicide. You have enormous debt. Your husband decides to stay home. He cannot cope with it and becomes depressed. Your combined school debt is terrifying to him. He wants to go back to work. You get pregnant again even though you are using NFP with the intention of not conceiving…and you feel stupid because you are a medical doctor!!! YOu stop using it and revert back to being on the Pill and using condoms because you feel you are justified.

        This is my cousin.

        She has become totally disillusioned with the Catholic Church, and I don’t know what could I possibly say?

        What would you say to her? I suppose I could say that she should have married her husband out of college and had her babies, and then around 35 started her journey into medical school and on to become a cardiologist, but really I have nobody to point to as a role model. And then, can you imagine starting on that journey with some young ones still around? Does anyone else? This is really where I am going with this. I would really like to know about other people’s experiences with high-demand jobs outside the workplace and large families. (Not just medicine…teaching, university, business, law).
        Thanks for reading…I am seriously interested in finding stories that pertain to my question. It is meant to be delivered with earnest respect for all who are not doing that, but I think it is important because I think we would all agree that we want to live in a world where women can and do become cardiologists, university professors, judges and ….maybe even….presidents?!!!

        mary

        PS I have not read Sarah Palin’s story, as she has had a demanding job outside the home and has had quite a few children.

        • Sarah says:

          Somehow my comment got erased. :) Just wanted to say that at the parish I attend I know of many women with larger families who are professionals (like lawyers and nurses) or were professionals (like counselors) or who plan to be future professionals. I think each woman’s story is different but many would say that it’s important to recognize that life has seasons and you adjust to the season. Also, some families have stay-at-home Dads or flexible schedules. Telecommuting and independent contracting opportunities are on the rise, making it easier for women today to keep working and honing their professional skills from home.

          It’s also important to remember that many of these families work as teams. For example, I know a family getting ready to send Dad to law school. Mom is picking up part-time work from home (she works as a paralegal) to assist while he is in school.
          Sarah recently posted..Abstinence Is In

        • Christina says:

          I would very much be interested in an answer/thoughts on Mary’s questions here as well.

        • Martina says:

          I think if your cousin is struggling, I could easily put her in touch with some ladies who have worked before who could talk to her.

          The big question that women often ponder {and let’s be honest, we women are our own worst critic at times} is *why* is there a need to define ourselves in the workplace? I’m not saying that to open up criticism. I used to work outside the home too but, ultimately {and quite the drama like any good princess would stir up} I found that my work at home was every bit as needed as my work outside the home.

          Why does society place the importance on a woman’s ‘worth’ as being solely outside the home? Why does it come with a price tag of working a full-time job? Why must the parameters of ‘fulfillment’ be defined as something that is almost entirely contrary to what our biology and our souls want?

          I am not saying or suggesting that women should feel like they need to ‘settle’ with their choices or education but, there is definitely a time and a place for everything. I have always wanted to be a go-getter real estate agent. And I think I could really compete and do well. My husband works outside residential sales = lots of long hours and miles on the car. At first I couldn’t reconcile doing the same kind of hours and strain to a vehicle when I got walloped upside the head with my own 2×4. My *KIDS* won’t be kids forever. NOW is the time to be embracing my fertility, my family, my children, my husband. I was trying to fit this *vision* of what my life should be into a tiny box. And life…and more importantly God is more important and bigger than that.

          We have to start be taking charge of how we redefine ourselves and not let society have as much influence over us as it currently does. I now look at that real estate job that I’ve coveted for almost 16 years and realized my talents in that time have morphed. I am good at evangelizing and doing apologetics; I love to network within the Faith and put people in touch with others who can help. I am in LOVE with a Pauline life that builds up the Church. And I’ve come to peace with the decision to be happy with being home. My kids will grow up all too soon and the next regret I’ll have is that I didn’t do enough to enjoy it. I’m not sure there’s a paycheck out there large enough to cause me jeopardize that.

          Seriously, though. If your cousin is in need of talking to, send me an e-mail. I’d love to help out. :)

        • Karen says:

          Honestly, you aren’t going to find that many women who have large families and work outside the home at a high-pressure, high-stakes or high responsibility job. It just isn’t possible, for most women, to do both and most have made the choice to pursue one or the other.

          I have heard of an OB out there that has 8 or 9 kids. I could try and see if I can find out her contact information.

          I’m almost 40. There are dreams I had, things I wanted to do, a career that I wanted and still think about. I’ve gone as far as getting transcript requests together to apply to school. It isn’t going to happen, at least the way I wanted. If I do go back I’ll be in my 50’s and I may not have the health needed to do what I want to do. My plans may be altered or never even come to fruition at all. Is that hard? Yes. Does it make me sad? Yes. Is it one of a long line of sacrifices I have made and will make because I am a mother? Yes. Did I understand that when I got married and began having children? Yes. Is it worth it? A resounding yes.

          Maybe someday i will get to walk across a stage and accept the degree I dream of and it will be all the sweeter because my children will be there cheering for me.
          Karen recently posted..16 Texans

        • 'Becca says:

          I know a woman who is a mother of 3, a family practice physician, and a Girl Scout leader. Her life is very stressful! When I (with only 1 child) had to go back to full-time work from part-time, I asked her for advice. She gave me plenty of detail, but the main point was:
          Accept that although you are doing many things, you cannot do everything; let some things go, and ask for help with other things. She noted having lots of help from her husband (partly because she insists even if she feels intimidated), using convenience foods, hiring out household tasks, taking turns with other families having all the kids for the evening, and prayer.

          Her first child was conceived through contraceptive failure when she was still in medical school. She took as little time off as possible. They then decided to have a second child during her residency because they wanted their kids close in age. (This didn’t work out so well–one of the most intense sibling rivalries I’ve ever seen!–but it *could* have.) Both parents frequently talk of that, more than a decade later, as the most difficult time in their lives. They didn’t plan another child but had another contraceptive failure. She says this was a lesson in humility for her as a doctor!

          Despite her career focus, she is one of the best mothers I know. She breastfed all her children for more than a year and is very much in tune with them now, very interested in encouraging each of them to be the 3 very different people they are.

          I also know a mother of 4 kids under 6 who is a research data manager (a full-time desk job) and has two main strategies for making it work: Her husband does all the cooking and grocery shopping, and her in-laws provide childcare at no cost.
          ‘Becca recently posted..It’s high school musical season!

    • Erika Evans says:

      Mary, I just wanted to say that I agree with your post and appreciate the elegant, loving and kind way you put your thoughts.

      I have a great deal of respect for the consistent reverence for life that my Catholic brothers and sisters maintain (I’m a devout Lutheran), but I have a hard time getting my mind around the idea that there must be very grave reasons in place to justify limiting family size. There are so many, many paths to take through life, so many, ways to serve God, and a great number of those doors slam shut when the kids start piling up.

      A large family, raised in loving service to Him, is unquestionably a holy thing….but I believe that a small family, freed to other kinds of service because of its more manageable workload, is also a holy thing.

      • Gina says:

        Beautifully said, Erika.

      • Deb says:

        “great number of those doors slam shut when the kids start piling up.”

        Maybe God is opening doors with the kids.

        The common thread I’m seeing here is the NFP=lots of kids. This is not necessarily the case. Even is a couple does nothing, that does not mean they will have 20 kids.

        “but I believe that a small family, freed to other kinds of service because of its more manageable workload, is also a holy thing.’

        Yes, if this is God’s plan. The Catholic Church’s teaching on marital sexuality is to leave the couple open to God’s plan. We can think we know how few (or many) children would make us holy, but only God knows. NFP requires the couple to prayerfully discern God’s will for their family size.

        God Bless you!

    • Beadgirl says:

      I get what you are saying, Mary. I think there are so many complicating factors that every couple really does have to find its own solution. I had a “high-powered” career as a lawyer that got completely derailed by Beadboy1, and his significant special needs. I’ve since had Beadboy2, and we are stopping there (unless God has other plans) because 1) the risk of another child with special needs is too great and 2) I found being a stay-at-home mom to be a miserable experience, and I think another child would take a serious toll on my well-being and my marriage.

      And yet, sometimes I wish I had a bigger family. But then I doubt I could handle it, and we really need my income now (stupid recession). And I really miss my old career, and I like my new one. And then I go to some Catholic blogs (not this one) and read about what a selfish bad Catholic I must be. And then I talk to my mom and my brother, the most devout Catholics I know, and they think I am a hero for all the sacrifices I made and make for my two boys.

      Sometimes I think the discussion all too often becomes one of extremes — either you have few or no children because you are a selfish person who puts her own needs and freedoms above everyone else’s, or you have 20 children and sacrifice everything for your children’s needs. It is possible to strike a balance between the two, to devote yourself to your family without losing yourself in the process. Where that is will be different for every woman. And while I miss cuddling infants, and I look forward to doing all sorts of things with the Beadboys as they grow up, I also can’t wait until Mr. Beadgirl and I can start to do some of the things we did before kids.

      • Sarah Webber says:

        That is very like my situation. Our eldest is autistic, so after 2, we are permanently done. I love my children, but at 7 and 4 they still can’t really be unsupervised and are only just recently potty trained, and as much as I love dogs, I don’t have enough spare energy to have even one of those. I admire those who have more children but ever since my son’s diagnosis (when I was pregnant with his sister), we’ve known that was the end for us. After one child with autism, the thought of another child so afflicted is terrifying. And his sister, while not neurotypical, is at least blessed to be higher-functioning. It is God’s grace the sustains us, I am certain, but I also know we could not cope with more.
        Sarah Webber recently posted..First Friday of Lent

        • Lauren says:

          Mary,
          Others have given great thoughtful respones to your questions, and I think I have a point not already addressed. I am an NFP teacher, so I am given snippets of people’s lives and their decisions about family size on a frequent basis (though it is never my place to judge or offer opinion on that…I’m just saying it comes with the territory). To give you an example, I had a newly married woman contact me who was just at the end of her rope with NFP. Having gotten off the pill after having been on it for 11 years, her cycles were nowhere near typical, and that required some extended times of abstinence. Her husband worked a job that required him to be gone for up to a month at a time. She contacted me to let me know that she was just DONE with NFP, because in the 6 months that they had been married, they had had sex only twice. My first step in talking to her was to lay out the fact that according to the “special circumstance” rules I had given her, she had plenty available days for intercourse in the last long cycle. Then I listed the following factors: 1) getting off the pill. 2) husband having a job that kept them apart. 3) not being willing to see a doctor to address steps to take to get healthier, more typical cycles. 4) their priority level to avoid a pregnancy.
          Now, ALL of those were factors in their abysmal frequency rate for intercourse. To place all of the blame on the Church or all of the blame on NFP is not looking at the entire situation, and seeing what each factor brings to the table, and considering which of those factors might change to bring some peace to the situation. I don’t understand why it is that if something brings discord, that the first factor that should be compromised is Church teaching? I would paralell this with your cousin. All of their problems simply cannot be traced back to NFP and Church teaching.
          I’m just offering pure speculation here, but maybe with time she might find that her advisors are wrong that part-time work or time off is career suicide. Maybe it won’t be for her. Who knows what the future brings? But if they pray and bring it to God and try to follow the path He has set for her and for their family, who knows what is possible?

  38. Nicole says:

    BEAUTIFULLY STATED. WE HAVE BEEN ASKED IF WE ARE “DONE” SINCE OUR 2ND WAS BORN (WE HAD OUR BOY AND OUR GIRL!). I AM 28 AND MY 5TH CHILD IS 6 MONTHS NOW. WE MADE A RASH DECISION (FOR MY HUSBAND TO GET SNIPPED) WHEN OUR FIFTH WAS 2 MONTHS OLD. I REGRET IT…..ALREADY, AND SO DOES MY HUSBAND.

    NOT SURE WHERE GOD IS TAKING US WITH THIS. I AM NOT SURE IF I NEED TO JUST PRAY FOR PEACE, GET THE SURGERY REVERSED (IT IS NOT THAT I AM SURE WE WOULD “TRY” FOR ANOTHER ONE, BUT JUST TO LET IT BE OKAY WITH GOD, IF THAT MAKES SENSE?), OR IF THIS IS OUR WINDOW TO SERVE ELSEWHERE: ADOPTION, FOSTERING….

    I STILL REFUSE TO GET RID OF MY CLOTH DIAPERS AND MY SLINGS AFTER MY BABY OUTGROWS THEM. MAYBE YOU ALWAYS YEARN FOR MORE? MAYBE THAT IS GOD’S DESIGN FOR US AS WOMEN?

    • Mary says:

      Nicole, I have such attachment for my infant clothes (my youngest is two and I guess we are done) that I refuse to get rid of some. I love love love babies and cry sometimes at the thought of being done. We have three. But (see my posts above). I do sense that some people need to limit if others are to have large families. I guess I think of it that way. If I limit, then someone else can have more. Does that sound crazy?

      Mary

      • Lauren says:

        Mary,
        Others have given great thoughtful respones to your questions, and I think I have a point not already addressed. I am an NFP teacher, so I am given snippets of people’s lives and their decisions about family size on a frequent basis (though it is never my place to judge or offer opinion on that…I’m just saying it comes with the territory). To give you an example, I had a newly married woman contact me who was just at the end of her rope with NFP. Having gotten off the pill after having been on it for 11 years, her cycles were nowhere near typical, and that required some extended times of abstinence. Her husband worked a job that required him to be gone for up to a month at a time. She contacted me to let me know that she was just DONE with NFP, because in the 6 months that they had been married, they had had sex only twice. My first step in talking to her was to lay out the fact that according to the “special circumstance” rules I had given her, she had 19 available days for intercourse in the last long cycle. Then I listed the following factors: 1) getting off the pill. 2) husband having a job that kept them apart. 3) not being willing to see a doctor to address steps to take to get healthier, more typical cycles. 4) their priority level to avoid a pregnancy.
        Now, ALL of those were factors in their abysmal frequency rate for intercourse. To place all of the blame on the Church or all of the blame on NFP is not looking at the entire situation, and seeing what each factor brings to the table, and considering which of those factors might change to bring some peace to the situation. I don’t understand why it is that if something brings discord, that the first factor that should be compromised is Church teaching? I would paralell this with your cousin. All of their problems simply cannot be traced back to NFP and Church teaching.
        I’m just offering pure speculation here, but maybe with time she might find that her advisors are wrong that part-time work or time off is career suicide. Maybe it won’t be for her. Who knows what the future brings? But if they pray and bring it to God and try to follow the path He has set for her and for their family, who knows what is possible?

        Lauren

  39. Jason says:

    This is right on! I am lazy too, but I only find fulfillment when I am serving others who can’t serve themselves. When I think about the missionary life I believe God is going to send me into, it makes me nervous…mostly because I don’t want to think about working that hard! But then He reminds me that the year I *did* work that hard was the best year of my life, and it’ll be worth it.

    I know a woman who is a missionary and works harder for the Lord than I ever thought I could. I asked her how she manages to have 3 very active boys and be the general director of a school AND get up at 4am every day to have some devotional time with her husband. She said she relies on God for strength, and He gives it.

    I’m only starting to read your blog now, Jennifer, but I think I will really enjoy following you.

    -j

  40. Sarah says:

    Mary – I like your thoughtful questions! The first thing that comes to mind for me is that stewardship usually refers to the management of resources or things, not people. It does bother me a bit to discuss human beings as needing to be reduced in numbers similar to say the national debt or landfills. For what it’s worth, cloth diapers are quite popular in my area and my sisters (both currently with 3 each and hoping for more) use them and find them easier than disposable. I think making moves like this is the key to being good stewards of the environment. The more wise we are with our resources, the better (although I understand not everyone has the ability to use cloth diapers). The other issue here I think is that people don’t just take from the environment but also give back. Children are not just a drain but they add to stewardship opportunities. For example, the US has more trees now than it did decades ago. Who put them there? People. People who care. Biblically and practically speaking, people have the power to help or hurt the environment, to manage it well or poorly. This does not result in a nice neat math equation of babies = burden on the environment, but I find that most of these issues are much more complex than they appear on the surface. :) Also, statistically, families with more kids use less resources per child. There is a tendency to spend more and do more just one or two children than 6.

    Here’s another thought… one of my sisters (who is a geologist and trained in environmental sciences) is thrilled that she and her husband are building a larger family to help care for them when they are older and help care for each other. This makes them rather “resourceful”. :) (Although they are not having children just for this purpose!).
    Sarah recently posted..Abstinence Is In

    • 'Becca says:

      people don’t just take from the environment but also give back. Children are not just a drain but they add to stewardship opportunities. For example, the US has more trees now than it did decades ago.

      …but fewer trees than it did centuries ago, and many of the trees we have now are in tree farms sprayed with pesticides rather than in natural forests where a complete ecosystem can flourish. We have made progress toward replenishing what we’ve taken from the earth, but we’re hardly there yet.

      I agree, though, that people are not only a source of environmental damage, because we are PART of the environment! We are one of the species intended to flourish on this planet, and the resources are here for us to use; it’s not morally wrong for us to eat, breathe, poop, build stuff, or reproduce, any more than it is wrong for animals and plants to do those things. The trick is to keep ourselves in balance with the intricate system God created and be responsible stewards of our resources rather than wasting them.

      We were very irresponsible with trees for a while there, during the Industrial Revolution, and that’s why our current number of trees compares favorably to “decades ago” but not to the pre-Mayflower era. Luckily, we can plant more trees. We can’t plant more petroleum or metals.
      ‘Becca recently posted..It’s high school musical season!

      • Sarah says:

        Becca – The U.S. has much unmanaged, wild forest that is actually hurting because we are not managing the old growth to allow new growth. There are a lot of misunderstandings about forestry and trees. You also have to understand that a lot of environmental goals are “values based.” We decide we want more trees, so we make the effort. But what is the effect on the environment? Are trees sprayed with pesticide not really trees? Do they not process CO2? Or is producing more 02 not the goal? Is the goal to be more “natural”? Prettier? And what does that mean? And after we decide what our goals are, how much is “enough”? Can you give me a number of trees that would be ideal and an exact measure of how that number would be good for the earth? And to what point do we need to return to the past if that is a goal? A long time ago, the earth had no trees, but a lot of volcanic activity. Should we return to that because it is older? More “natural” or “original”?

        Do you see how environmentalism is not a hard dogma or science? (All these questions btw are question that have been asked of me by the environmental scientists in my family). Ultimately, humans have to decide what we value in the environment, what benefits humanity and the natural world best. Going “back” isn’t necessarily the goal or even healthier. Cutting down a tree is a neutral activity. That could benefit the undergrowth by giving it more sunlight. Or, it could waste a precious resource (although a renewable one). Depends on a lot of factors and vantage points. Having children could mean more trees planted thanks to willing hands. Or better resource management. Or the discovery of a better energy source. Or more waste. Or a combination. It’s more important that we raise kids to think about their values, what is best for the earth and fellow humans *today* than simply limiting children.
        Sarah recently posted..Abstinence Is In

        • 'Becca says:

          I know forestry is complicated, and I certainly don’t understand all about it. I do know that the amount of CO2 in our air is higher than it should be, that this is bad because CO2 is what we breathe OUT of our lungs, and that trees (and other plants) absorb CO2 and exhale oxygen for us to breathe. Therefore, we need more trees/plants than we have now, but I don’t know a magic number. Whatever that number is, it is higher the more people are exhaling and burning things (which also creates CO2).

          When you think of people as hands to plant trees, remember that in God’s design the trees plant themselves. It’s only when we interfere with that that we become responsible for planting them.

          But I certainly agree that optimizing today and tomorrow is wiser than trying to return to any particular point in the past, and that the values by which people live have a stronger effect than the number of people.
          ‘Becca recently posted..Religious Education with Ramona Quimby

  41. Sarah says:

    And btw, many of us who do accept the teachings of the Church have also thought and prayed about it! The Church encourages thought and prayer, so I think you are right to ponder all this!
    Sarah recently posted..Abstinence Is In

  42. I was thinking about the two ways to read your title, and how they can reflect the secular culture and the Catholic/religious culture.

    1) My life, changing diapers

    This is the viewpoint of so many people who question the size of your family. When looking at your life from a secular perspective, all they see is how the diapers (and thus the little ones in the diapers) are preventing you from doing what YOU want… you are always having to pay attention to someone else and mold your life around the schedule of others.

    2) My life-changing diapers

    The Catholic view! Having little ones forces us to let go of our selfishness and to conform our will not just to our child’s needs, but to God’s will, as Mary did when she accepted the gift of Life. It’s life-changing, no doubt, but life-changing in the best sense possible.
    Lisa @ Cheerfully Chaotic recently posted..40 Days for Life video- amazing!

  43. Denise says:

    “In terms of my bad character traits, my selfishness is surpassed only by my laziness.”

    Soul sister! Lol!

    Great article, and much needed reminder. Thank you.

  44. Sierra says:

    I’ve been a reader for a while, but I believe this is my first time commenting. I, too, was a later in life convert and am blessed with the ability to conceive at the drop of a hat ;) We are expecting our 5th, our kids are 8, 6, 4 and 1.5 years old. The questions I run into are very similar and generally well meaning. Where we live, many women wait till their late 30’s early 40’s to have children and there is a lot of judgment involved in our openness to a large family. How will we pay for college, give them the tennis/swimming/lacrosse/gymnastic/dance lessons every child apparently needs to survive. The diaper question comes up often too. IMO if our Lord could so graciously and lovingly wash the feet of his disciples, a few diapers aren’t going to kill me. And honestly, I think I could change a diaper with one hand tied behind my back. I know I can do one in the dark on no sleep – ha!
    Sierra recently posted..Planning for a Summer without Camp

  45. Lacy says:

    I couldn’t agree with this more. Our society, in my opinion, is missing out on so much! We live in a very selfish, now, now, now society anymore. There is little self sacrifice. Reading this was such a breath of fresh air for me! It is so nice to come across someone who can so beautifully state such an important topic. Thank you for this!

  46. 'Becca says:

    Jen, do you EVER think about the mountains of garbage in your children’s future from all these disposable diapers, or about whether buying all that instant garbage is a wise use of your family’s money? You never mention these issues…

    I have only one child, and it’s surprised me that when the “When are you having another?” badgering diminished (when the kid was about 4 and we were past 35), the “Won’t you be glad when he’s older?” badgering got stronger! Every stage of parenting relieves some burdens and adds some new ones. It isn’t automatically better, just different. The latest example is people saying how great it is that my kindergartner walked to school by himself one day: “Now you don’t have to walk him there anymore!” Well, it did get me to work earlier, but I missed visiting his classroom and feeling a bit more involved in his day. I was relieved when he wanted me to walk with him the next day because he’d missed conversation with me! He may not NEED my company now, but he still WANTS it, and I am happy to be there for him.

    That golden calf of autonomy you mentioned is, I think, the source of those comments in more ways than one: Not only is your own autonomy idealized, but your children’s autonomy is, too. Independence is so valued in America that people sometimes ignore the values of interdependence. Many parents of teenagers take it too far, in my opinion, and stop acting like parents at all, which is a loss on both sides.
    ‘Becca recently posted..It’s high school musical season!

    • Karen says:

      I can’t speak for Jen, but we use disposable diapers (did try cloth diapers with the second, it…was not pretty). On the other hand, we do not use paper towels or napkins, so I figure that balances it out some, right? And I hang dry laundry in the summer…am I forgiven? :)

      • Mary says:

        It’s funny….right now for lent, I am trying to air dry “most” of my laundry. It sounds like an odd thing to do for lent, but I read about a guy doing this once, and I thought it was a really great thing to attempt. Heating water from the liquid state to the vapor is very energy-intensive, as water has a high specific heat, so air-drying can save a lot of energy and money.

        Air-drying stuff is hard though…it gets stiff and the kids complain and you don’t get the lint off, and it takes time and space (we do it indoors here in Mass. during the winter). But…it is a great way for a mom or dad to make a green contribution while drying diapers and lots of clothes for a large family.

        Yeah…I don’t know about all those folks who have said on this blog that cloth diapers were easier than paper…I wish they could show me how, as I have done it for two, but really got TOTALLY lazy with the third. I have all the stuff and now just need to get going on it.

        Thanks Karen. I liked some of your other points like:

        “Raising children, whether it is 1 or 2 or 7 or 9, to grow up and to know, love and serve God and to love their neighbor as thyself is the penultimate contribution to the community. Anything else you do, inside or outside of the home, is icing on the cake.”

        Mary

        • 'Becca says:

          Cloth diapers certainly aren’t the only way to care for the environment! Every way of using resources wisely has a positive effect. I know several families who live in apartments and use disposable diapers (rather than wash cloth ones in a shared washing machine) but don’t own cars; that definitely balances out! The same choices aren’t right for everyone, but stewardship of Creation means doing what we can. I hope to hear that Jen does think about it and has made some other changes to compensate for the disposable diapers.

          Line-drying laundry is a great Lenten discipline! After 6 weeks, you may get used to it (the stiffness, for example, now means “clean” in my mind; clothes from the dryer feel like somebody already wore them, eww) and feel able to continue at least part-time. That’s how it was when we gave up meat for Lent.

          Here’s my explanation of how cloth diapers are easier. I worked outside the home 25-30 hours a week while using them, but I still thought it was easier to run down to the laundry room than to run to the store, plus they’re just better diapers.
          ‘Becca recently posted..It’s high school musical season!

  47. micaela says:

    those questions “when are you going to stop” are born out of despair and blindness of love.
    For an infant and newborn, the toddler, and the 4 yrd old are a second to second reminder of the sacredness and gift of life.

    what are diaper changes, but mere blessings in the big pic?

  48. micaela says:

    I think Becca worships trees and the environment…..
    what blindness.
    micaela recently posted..Teach Kids to Look Up to the Real Superstars –

    • Mary says:

      Micaela, Your comment comes across as hurtful, even though I don’t think that is how you meant it. It is not blind to appreciate the environment and love the God-given beauty it affords. I don’t know about you, but I am glad the entire world does not look like Manhattan, and that is exactly what I sense it would look like in short order if EVERYONE or even most had large families (look at population biology).

      I think it is possible to love children wholly, love being with them and giving service to them, while at the same time trying deeply to understand how to be a good steward to this earth, and yes, for some that means limiting their family size to one or two children.

      That said, I think Becca could be a bit more tactful. Jen is one of the rarest bloggers I know. She openly talks about her change of mind during her conversion, and I think she comes across as very intelligent and open to all thoughts, but fervent in her own devotion to the Catholic Church and it’s call to be open to life. I too wondered about Jen’s ideas on limits to family size, and she tried to shuttle me over to a blogger who she thought could answer my question best. I did not agree with the person’s thoughts exactly, and it did not totally convince me, but I learned something and grew in my openness to keep the entire conversation going in my heart/mind. That said, I would be interested in Jen’s answers to Becca’s question, but I would not have framed it in that way, as I think that reflection would tell us that she must have thought about these things somewhere along the line.

      I try to be thoughtful and sometimes challenging, whilst keeping things as loving and civil together. I truly think we can be an example to all the hate and polarization out there in the world at large on this blog by being civil, respectful and loving.

      • 'Becca says:

        Thanks, Mary. I could have been more tactful, and I apologize if I hurt Jen’s feelings. Knowing that Jen is very intelligent and does think through almost everything, I have been surprised at how rarely, if ever (can anyone point me to an example?), she mentions thinking about any issue of garbage, gasoline use, etc. Of course that is not the main focus of the site, but in tangents Jen has, for example, promoted disposable products like K-cups without mentioning the fact that they turn irreplaceable petroleum into a product that will be used once and in a landfill forever. I find it hard to understand how anyone can raise children without thinking about this aspect of the future, yet I know that many people do.

        Micaela, I do not worship trees and the environment. I worship God. Because I worship God, I feel immense respect for the gifts he has given me. One of these gifts is a beautiful place in which to live, intricately designed to provide for all our needs in a vast self-renewing cycle. Carelessly breaking, spoiling, and wasting that gift shows disrespect to God. I take that very seriously. I believe humans are honored guests in This Crowded World, and our numbers are much less important than our behavior toward our Host, each other, and the wonderful gift with which we’ve been entrusted.
        ‘Becca recently posted..It’s high school musical season!

        • Gina says:

          With all due respect, isn’t it a bit forward to dictate which issues our blog hostess should be concerned about? Haven’t we all just been talking about how difficult it is to have strangers telling you how you should live your life and what your priorities should be? Anyway, I should think that a writer, wife, and mother of multiple children has enough to do just getting through a day without having to think about garbage and gasoline.

          • 'Becca says:

            Jen has written much about how motherhood is her primary vocation. Being a responsible mother includes thinking about your family’s use of resources. Let me phrase this just in terms of money, which was part of my original question, because the short-term effects on the family are easier to understand: Jen is spending about $2,500 per baby on disposable diapers and wipes. If instead she spent $1,000 on cloth diapers and wipes, they would last through at least two children, and the cost of laundering them would (since she has her own washing machine) be maybe as much as $250 per child. By spending half as much on diapering, if she has one baby every two years she’d have an extra $625 per year to spend on other things her family needs.

            Jen may have thought that through, along with all other aspects of diapering, but decided that disposable diapers are best for her family. She certainly is not OBLIGATED to share her reasoning on the Internet. But after 4 years of reading her blog, seeing that every time she mentions diapers several mothers (not just me) mention the advantages of cloth but she never responds, I do wonder and think it’s okay to ASK about it.

            I should think that a writer, wife, and mother of multiple children has enough to do just getting through a day without having to think about garbage and gasoline.

            The price of gas has doubled since Jen’s first child was born. It will likely continue to rise. This too is a money issue in the short term. Thinking long term, a part of parenthood is trying to make the world a better place for the sake of your children; even if you don’t have time to think of anyone else, a future of no gas and mountains of garbage will affect your own children.

            I’ve often heard parents of multiple children say things that boil down to, “I can’t be as conscientious a citizen as you are because I have more kids,” or, “I can’t be as good a parent as you are because I have more kids.” That argument adds to the perception of large families as irresponsible. If a person is called to have a large family, she is called to be just as responsible for each one of her children as I am responsible for mine. I think Jen IS a responsible mother. I think she is very capable of thinking beyond “just getting through a day,” not every day (can anyone do that?) but in general. In fact, it appears that she finds thinking fun, not a burden.
            ‘Becca recently posted..Religious Education with Ramona Quimby

        • Mary says:

          Dear Becca,

          I am similarly floored but also very curious that SOME people who are sincerely loving and thoughtful and often prayerful do not think about the environment much or at all. I liked your most recent comment because it cited specifics about your questions for Jen. These are more helpful comments for all of us really understanding each other and growing in that understanding.

          I put off children for a long time precisely because I was feeling very bad about putting children into the world. (I regret waiting though, as I think having children younger would have been much better for me (had first at 32, but should have started at 24). I have traveled to developing nations many times, and seen first hand where resources are not adequate for growth by any stretch. I have seen in Nepal and India where the Green Revolution saved them from famine as their populations ballooned, but now they are straining resources wildly, but gradually reproducing at a much more sustainable OVERALL rate (emphasis to indicate that I do not think two or less children is the answer for everyone at all!!!) but this was done, in part, with the help of contraception (probably, tragically with some abortion, but I am hoping for a world without). Part of my education had been fueled by reading people like Bill McKibben etc. etc.

          Here are some of my latest thoughts…see what you think…really still searching and growing (now a Lutheran, but hoping to start a Lutheran’s for Life group and still very attached to my Catholic Church through friends and family…and sometimes just sneak in to pray and enjoy God.) Here goes:

          The Pope recently mentioned that it might be considered a “loving act” for a male prostitute to use a condom if the intent was to prevent the spread of disease, and thereby it would be somewhere (however far) along the path towards emulating Jesus. Couldn’t it be a loving act for someone to limit their family size with the idea of making room for other women or future women to be able to enjoy being mothers without trying to overwhelm our natural systems?

          I have met many people who assume that all environmentally-thinking people are somewhat selfish, in that they don’t want to have kids because they want things, or freedom or don’t want to have to serve people. How odd to think this? I can assume you that many people I have met who have limited their family size do it out of a respect and love for others…people they have not even met…all over the world. I, and a few others I know, would have loved more babies, but really felt that it was right to be somewhat conservative. Most stopped at two or three. Some four (but they would have loved ten).

          Anyhow, this is how I think of it…but I still sense it should be up to each individual at this point…but I really cannot see how you could get to some sustainable level of fertility if everyone truly followed the direction of the Catholic Church that any kind of contraception or “contraceptive mentality” was a MORTAL sin.

          This is something I struggle with. You see, I think the Catholic Church has so much to offer. After all, it is the magnificent organization that first taught me of “loving the sinner but hating the sin”.

          What do y’all think? I’m interested in your thinking patterns…even if they are radically different than mine…but please be cordial!

          Peace!

          • Lauren says:

            Mary,
            I want to preface my post with making sure you know that I appreciate your respectful honest questions, and I intend to give back that same respect!
            To clarify what the pope said (as it was widely misconstrued), he said (to paraphrase), that a male prostitute who had previously been using no condoms, but then decided to begin using condoms out of a thoughtful decision to not spread disease would be making a step towards choosing the moral good. However, the best moral good in that situation is to discontinue his prostitution and live out his sexuality to the fullness that God intends…but you have to start somewhere. And his point was that we can’t be the ones to judge anyone about their decisions, that is truly up to God, but we can only encourage them along in their journey to finding true fulfillment.
            You are asking if it is okay to limit your family size because you believe it would help the environment. My response to that would be that Church teaching has never given a specific reason that would make it okay to avoid a pregnancy, because the factors are so nuanced and so complex and they change with each individual family. No one is to judge reasons, that is between God and the couple. If the couple prayerfully (and I do mean prayerfully) takes the situation to God and comes back with feeling that they should limit their family for ANY reason, then no one is frowning on that, if artificial contraception isn’t used, and the natural design of fertility is utilized to space the children.
            You’ve mentioned about how burdened the world would be if we all had as many children as we possibly could. Well my personal response to that would be that clearly not everyone is called to have a large family, even the Catholic ones. My problem with imposing these ideas about family size on third world cultures is you are imposing your own ideas and beliefs on them. I have read about how in some places they are witholding aid (like school lunches for their children) if the mothers don’t get injected with birth control. To me, that just cannot stand. That’s where I feel the danger lies in this notion to go out and spread the good news about small family size. Just as you say large families aren’t good for everyone, what if these women do not desire small families and are having it forced upon them?
            From what I have read (and albeit not a large amount, you sound much more versed on this topic than I am) is that the real issue with population is more about the management of resources and government corruption than it is about just numbers of bodies. It just seems much more complex than saying that the world would be a better place if there were less people on it.
            I think that where your journey in understanding Church teaching on this should at some point take you to Theology of the Body, so that even if you might not agree, you might better understand the role that children have within a Christian marriage. There’s a lot of depth and a lot beauty to be found there. It might help you to understand why for Catholics, artificial contraception will simply never be an option.
            Anyway, those are just my thoughts.

            -Lauren (a fellow cloth diapering “green” Catholic mama :))

          • 'Becca says:

            Mary and Lauren, your comments are really interesting!

            As an Episcopalian, I believe that decisions about family size should be made by prayerful discernment, and God calls different people to do different things. As a social scientist, I believe that a society with a variety of family sizes is superior to one with uniformity, and that every family size has both advantages and disadvantages. As an environmentalist, I believe that hormonal contraception is a threat to human and animal health and its use should be minimized in favor of NFP/Fertility Awareness, reusable barrier methods, and ***voluntary*** sterilization. As a successful user of Fertility Awareness, I believe that its potential for limiting pregnancies is better than most people realize and the main stumbling block is education.

            Lauren, thank you for clarifying that concern about overpopulation is an acceptable reason for Catholics to limit family size if they feel guided that way.
            ‘Becca recently posted..Religious Education with Ramona Quimby

  49. This is music to my ears. It was the exact message that I needed! Thank you for your carefully composed words. I’m so appreciate to know and read your insights!

  50. * appreciative

    My brain is mush today. :)
    Ashley Anderson @ Seeking Steward recently posted..A House Story – Part 1

  51. micaela says:

    The blindness statement only comes across as hurtful when one ‘truly’ places the environment or living a life of materialistic perfection above the gift of the human soul, and that is way more hurtful to God.

    My comment may be taken as hurtful because it seems the point of this article post is being missed. When people place value in “material” things above the value of life, (esp when it comes to point of sacrificing for the “sake” of that love), they fall to blindness.

    Reread the points sharply; take my words as constructive criticism. As a designer and artist, constructive criticism is never a ‘nice feeling’, but always across as a sharp elbow whether it is nice or not, and it is exactly the same way when discussing issues of morality.

    To bring up trees and the environment from the beginning immediately suggests that children or people are what ought be sacrificed. Thats absolutely blind to love.

  52. micaela says:

    Unless one has faith in Almighty God then for sure, one will always and forever place faith and hope in the material things and false gods (like trees and the environment, excess diapers). This doesnt mean, have as many kids as one can possibly have, and to be irresponsible, trash up planet earth and consume without limit…..But it DOES mean to simply know ‘LOVE’ and accept it.
    A child is always a gift above any “environmental” gift from God, or should a discouragement when we think about “trashed up diaper piles”. Again, it doesnt imply to “have as many children as one can” and “forget about taking care of our environment” (as many radically mistaken environmentalists fall to), but this does imply, in simplest of ways” to simply recognize the truth that a child is a gift above any environmental gift even with all the sacrifices involved in raising them, whether it is 1, 3, or 5 in diapers.
    micaela recently posted..Teach Kids to Look Up to the Real Superstars –

  53. So many here have already said how I feel: these kinds of questions are no one’s business.

    As someone who was never able to conceive, I endured years of questions like WHEN will you get started and WHAT are you waiting for. And even worse – so what’s the problem with you exactly?! And worse again, my husband’s younger sister got pregnant twice w/out even trying, so we had to endure the comparisons and questions about the fact that she is younger than us and married less time.

    I will never understand why people think these kinds of questions are any of their business, let alone considered polite conversation.
    Kris, in New England recently posted..Triple Dog Dare

  54. Theresa in Alberta says:

    I will trade you my 2 self centered kids who are in their 20’s and have boomeranged back home twice until I “evicted” both of them by paying for them to move out!! I am now tough loving both of them by “potty training” them to be responsible adults, for your adorable, stinky, runny nosed diaper clad tots who I would love to play silly childish games with!!! Disposable diapers are all bio degradable and as christians we should be having a few more of those lovely blessings called children or we will be living in an environment controlled by shiria law, which will be more toxic than any landfill. Just look at Europe!!

    • 'Becca says:

      Disposable diapers are all bio degradable

      Sorry, that is simply not true. Most disposable diapers contain plastic, which never biodegrades. The expensive ones made with cornstarch and such only biodegrade if you compost them–not in a landfill.

      as christians we should be having a few more of those lovely blessings called children or we will be living in an environment controlled by shiria law, which will be more toxic than any landfill. Just look at Europe!!

      Do you really think the problem there is not giving birth to enough Christians? I see it as a failure to retain Christians in the churches or apply Christian principles in the society. Remember, anyone can become a Christian, no matter how old he is or what he has done before. The entire Muslim world could be converted to Christianity if we showed them Christ’s radical love instead of fear. I certainly agree that Sharia law is toxic, but I don’t think the problem would be solved by “I guess my grandparents were Lutheran or something” Europeans having more babies.
      ‘Becca recently posted..It’s high school musical season!

  55. It always amazes me how people react to a pregnancy. If its your first child that wonderful, if its the second its assumed it’s the couple’s last child. If it’s the third well obviously that was a mistake…now if you get to four you are just one of those crazy people who are overpopulating the world.
    My response when I had my fourth to everyone who asked…”When are you going to be done?” was, “We are just getting started.”

    -Proud mother of 4 and hopefully more!

  56. Lisa C says:

    Hi Jennifer, my friend directed me to this post, I suppose because I just wrote a post on the same topic. Although it wasn’t about rude questions, but rather about being open to having more children.

    I never say those things to people, but I do occasionally ask people if they want more children. I hope that isn’t rude. I know some people don’t like to talk about it, but some welcome the opportunity.

    I have a stepbrother whose wife is pregnant with their fifth. When I found out I was excited for them, but I could see the look in other people’s faces like they are crazy. I don’t think it’s ever crazy to have another baby. Every child brings more joy to your family. I admire couples who have very large families. I’d be very tempted to stop at two because of my pregnancy track record so far, and the way I get stressed so easily. But I believe God knows what I can handle, so I want to trust Him. It’s not always easy, but I’m trying.

  57. Nathalie says:

    When I read this post, I felt like I was reading back my own thoughts and conversations that I’ve had with the Lord as I’ve struggled and learned and joy-ed over what it means to be a mama. Not long after I gave birth to my first child, God so graciously began leading me down a path of realizing the pure joy that comes from fully giving in to the season He’s laid before me. I guess thats why I decided the tag-line for my blog should be “changing the world one diaper at a time”. Perspective is EVERYTHING. Thank you so much for sharing your honest journey. I have been SO blessed and challenged and inspired by so many of your posts.
    -Nathalie-

  58. Angela says:

    Just wanted to tell you this post left me in tears. I am pregnant with our 4th child and am not looking forward to all the “You sure got your hands full” comments I must endure everywhere I go. I too am not much of a “baby” person. I adore my children and definitly feel overwhelming joy when I hold our children as babies, but babies are hard! I always feel guilty for feeling this way and it was refreshing to read your article. To think of changing diapers as my way of service to our Lord was life changing! Thank you for that!!

  59. From this mom of 8 — Awesome post!
    Jackie @ Family Daze recently posted..Ephiphany

  60. Catherine says:

    Being a nurse by vocation, I can definitely relate to this reflection! :)
    Catherine recently posted..ash wednesday

  61. magda says:

    Having babies is totally within the laws of nature.
    LOVE this post. It is simply true.

  62. Hannah says:

    What a great reminder of the importance of serving. I just found your blog, and I love it already. I went to UT also, and I miss Austin like crazy!

  63. Sweet Kate, God will bless you for your endurance. You are not alone, there are thousands of women that go through the same thing. I am one of them. God is teaching me everyday to rely on him a little bit more and let the heavy burdens fall away. I only have one baby and I deal with the same feelings. IS this right for me? Am I going to screw it up. I am codependent. Meaning that people are my addiction. I need them. I served in my church as many hours there were possible to avoid being alone with my feelings. Then when I had my daughter was left confused and wondering why I felt purposeless and abandoned. Hadn’t I wanted this? Matthew 22:37-39 tells us to love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself. As women we are taught to serve others before ourselves, but God says as ourselves. Meaning the same. I have learned that I didn’t love myself as I loved others. I joined Celebrate Recovery and discovered the reasons I had trouble loving myself and the reason I let others affect me. God has used this wonderful program to bring amazing women in my life that help me get through the tough times. We aren’t designed to live this alone. I know that you said that your husband is very helpful. But it sounds like you could use a support group. A group of christian women who lift you up when you can’t and who lead you back to God when you stray. Going to CR is better than getting a pedicure or massage, and I love those. Its a massage for my soul. I hope that you can find a group of women that do the same for you. God bless you and hang in there. God has great plans for you.

  64. Beth says:

    Thank you, Jennifer, for the much-needed perspective shift of this post. I’m writing many words these days for a writing project and have struggled for a few weeks now with the feeling that I am over all these words :) Your post was a great blessing to remember that the words can be a beautiful act of service to my Maker and my cup running over unto Him. Bless you :)

  65. Corrie says:

    I needed to read this blog tonight. Thank you. I am so ready to have my oldest potty trained, but I know it won’t happen soon (he’s a very strong-willed 2 year old and I know it takes boys longer) :). I was just thinking today…I’ve been changing 2 kids diapers now every day for 8 months (that’s the age of my youngest). Thanks for putting it all in perspective. Jesus’ life consisted of service & mine should as well.

  66. I agree that a key to being happy as a mother of small children is to choose to see changing diapers as a meditation on love and service. It can be a sweet interlude in the day to focus on your little one and care for their little heart and body.

  67. also, I just gave birth to our 6th child, and really did not enjoy the “was this an accident?” and “when will you be done” comments. I am so grateful to the friend who simply said, “Congratulations” when she heard I was expecting.

  68. Melanie says:

    Oh how I can relate! I have five little ones under seven also but I seem to shrug off all the questions also. Yes Im tired, Yes my house is a mess, Yes I soooo want more “Me” time but having lots of little ones has been the best thing God has given to me. I can totally say that these little rugrats has made me a better person. Loved reading this blog, thanks!

  69. Jen, Great post. My wife and I have been married 25 years. Our oldest daughter is 24 years old and has two small children of her own; a 1 year old and a 2 year old – she changes diapers every day. She and her husband are very happy and very in love. My youngest child is a 1 year old and in diapers. We have 9 other children in between the oldest and youngest and we’ve been changing diapers, every day for 25 years now. As a father of 11 children, I can honestly, passionately tell you there is no other answer. You are so correct that service and sacrifice are the keys to happiness and being open to another child the the greatest example of living both ideals to the fullest. All this nonsense about environment and over population and un-sustainability is techno-babble for hedonism. Leave it in the hands of nature – be wise but be brave. If anyone would look they would see the developed world is not producing enough babies to even replace it’s own population. There is no greater evil in the world today than the mentality of contraception. The idea of ending a life that is here – or preventing a life which is supposed to be here – all for material comfort – is just barbaric. And happens every second of every day and it happens more and more. Keep up the good work – BE NOT AFRAID!

  70. Mina says:

    While the both points having to do with contraception and gay marriage are interesting, I am certain that, as a Catholic, God has given us dominion over all the Earth not to dominate and over-populate this beautiful planet, and drain it of its resources, but to care for the planet as responsible stewards, and to leave it a better place than we found it. Birth control serves a purpose for people who can’t control themselves. Our world is overly-populated and humans are the most invasive species on the planet. If we are to sustain ourselves, and our planet, like it or not, either zero population growth will need to be strictly enforced or we’ll need to put birth control pills in the water. There comes a point that the entitlement of proliferation needs to be validated by something more substantial than “whoops.” If marriage is supposed to mean “new life” and only be between a man and a woman, then that man and woman has a moral duty to consider the quality of new life and if they at all care about that, will act responsibly if birth control is not an option. Or try abstinence for a while, for God’s sake, and then see what you really think about birth control.